Happy New Year and welcome to 2020. The New Year just starting is a great time for new beginnings, and to put into place those sometimes elusive New Year’s resolutions. There are new beginnings for our organisation too, as we welcome new Chief Executive Officer Maria Davison to the team.
It is at this time of year that many people vow to become healthier: to eat better, to exercise more, to stop smoking or to cut down on alcohol (particularly after an overindulgent festive season). These are all valiant resolutions to make, especially as they will all contribute towards reducing your risk of developing life limiting or terminal illnesses – including reducing your risk of developing dementia by as much as 30 per cent.
Dementia is the second-leading cause of death in Australia, and is expected to become the leading cause of death of all Australians sometime this decade. With no cure for dementia, and limited treatment options available, now more than ever is the time to seriously consider what risk reduction options you can implement in your life.
One of the key areas to focus on is exercise. According to World Health Organisation guidelines Risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia, exercise is at the top of the list of effective dementia risk reduction strategies.
Research continues to show that people who are physically active are less likely to develop cognitive decline or dementia, compared to people who are inactive. This is for two reasons. Firstly, exercise maintains good blood flow to the brain and encourages new brain cell growth in the hippocampus. By increasing your brain matter you can combat age related brain shrinkage, which in turn, can help to delay the onset of dementia. Secondly, physical exercise has a positive effect on your risk of heart disease or stroke, blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity – all of which are risk factors for developing dementia.
What types of exercise are best? The recommended types of activity are aerobic, strength training or a combination of both. Aerobic exercise is anything that gets you breathing harder and increases your heart rate such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training could be using resistance bands or weights. Look at combining some moderate-intensity activities (ones that make you breath harder) with some high-intensity ones (where you can’t easily talk while doing them).
For those who find it hard to fit scheduled exercise into their busy day, there is hope. Any kind of physical activity is better than doing nothing, and there are plenty of ways to incorporate incidental exercise into your everyday life. Take the stairs instead of the escalator, park in the far corner of the car park, clean the car by hand, get involved with the grandkids’ sport, or foster or adopt a dog and enjoy the benefits of daily walks along with the unconditional love of a canine companion. Incidental exercise does add up quickly. As with anything in life, make it enjoyable and it will naturally become part of your lifestyle.